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Thread: Undead=Evil

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    Question Undead=Evil

    I know that it must have been debated over thousands of times before, but why is it that undead are inherently Evil? I've talked to my DM about it, and he is completely convinced that this is the case. In fact, every time that I've tried to play a mostly-Good Necromancer, he acts as though I couldn't be more Evil. What are your thoughts and opinions on the matter? I think that it was just a simple way to get players to mercilessly kill critters without feeling bad about it.

    Here's what I normally do as a Necromancer, but you don't have to read about it. It's just something that might interest some of you, is all.

    I normally use Undead for more practical purposes, sending them on dangerous missions and having hordes of mindless skeletons coming out at night and cleaning up/ doing general janitorial duties around the city. And I'm talking about the jobs that no one wants to do, like sewer-diving. I also would use them as builders, as not having to worry about paying and over-working humanoids can vastly improve production. It's even more useful if you can Awaken them with the spell from Libris Mortis and make them all Experts to craft equipment for the city and Warriors to serve as the army, or even Adepts to serve as supporting spellcasters (I'm pretty sure that they can only be minor NPCs). The main problem is getting the bodies, however. I think that the best way to do so is to go to an abandoned battlefield and Animate them there, with existing equipment, too! Another idea that I heard once was offering a reduction to taxes or other benefits to the civilians if they will donate their bodies when they die. Sure, they might be complaining about "getting the creeps" or whatever, but it's better that they're a little scared for a while than dead when armies invade because there wasn't a surplus of undead soldiers to protect them, right?

    That's just what I think that some of the most Utopian societies in D&D should do ^, but I wanted to hear about any opinions that you have about this below.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    1) Undead armies place too much power and influence in the hands of too few individuals.You could easily end up with a situation where these necromancers decide that they should run things. Also makes the elimination of said necromancers the logical first strike of any would be invader.

    2) The gods might object. In a "high divinity" setting this could be problematic. The mere perception of this displeasure could cause religious unrest with or without their direct interference.

    3) Causes economic difficulties and social unrest. Whats a working man gonna do when all the jobs are taken by those damnable bonies? Because it wouldn't stop at night soil or sewer diving; not when there is profit to be made.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Either you should clear your character concepts with the DM before you start playing to make sure that your characters jive with his setting or your DM should clear his setting with the players before you start playing to make sure everyone agrees the setting is what they want to play (or, at least so that everyone understands what kind of behaviors are expected of them/their characters)
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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    For me (and only me, my DM is like yours ) undead can be evil, but not always. The undead themselves can be split two ways:

    1) Non intelligent undead: They have a neutral mindset, much like mindless creatures and most animals, but the fact that they are literally powered by the forces of decay, destruction and enervation pushes them slightly towards the evil.
    So they are only just barely evil because of negative energy. If that weren't the case, they would not be any more evil than constructs

    2) Intelligent undead: This is where undead earn their bad reputation. Intelligent undead have the capacity to choose and act out their morals, but again the force of negative energy means that the default is more evil that neutral and good. They are not Devils and Demons, but they on average are not Angels or the like. That said, there is very little stopping them from actively pursuing good.
    These guys are evil because that's the way they were made, and choose what to do from there.

    Edit: One of those things you do to get your bodies is sort of done in Planescape. There is a faction in Sigil called the Dustmen who you can sign contracts to. Signing this contract gets you some gold (50 or so) in exchange for giving them access to your body for animation when you die. And the whole process is legit.
    Last edited by Kane0; 2012-10-03 at 12:28 AM.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    The reason why it's considered EBULZ is because Necromancers are Always Evil in stereotypical fantasy fiction, and the reason for that is many people are uncomfortable with the idea of messing with dead bodies for any reason, thus anyone who has no reservations about doing so must have something wrong with them. It's not a very good reason, I'll agree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blightedmarsh View Post
    1) Undead armies place too much power and influence in the hands of too few individuals.You could easily end up with a situation where these necromancers decide that they should run things. Also makes the elimination of said necromancers the logical first strike of any would be invader.

    2) The gods might object. In a "high divinity" setting this could be problematic. The mere perception of this displeasure could cause religious unrest with or without their direct interference.

    3) Causes economic difficulties and social unrest. Whats a working man gonna do when all the jobs are taken by those damnable bonies? Because it wouldn't stop at night soil or sewer diving; not when there is profit to be made.
    Hmm... you have some good reasons to avoid the matter, aside from #1. I would never put the power of undead in the hands of some mortal shmuck, only using the hierarchy of Spawn-making undead, with me having total control, but even then, it's risky. (what with having them be free-willed if any of them are destroyed)

    Of course, if I'm doing this in the name of some Death-based deity, that takes care of civilian unrest in #2. I once heard of a deity that focused on using Undead to get cheap labor and whatnot, so I guess that that could be it, but there would still be the threat of "crusading Paladins" trying to rid the world of my army.

    And finally, #3 might be the most difficult problem to sort out. There could be people that simply live there, in a Utopian society, as mentioned above, who don't have to work, but then there wouldn't be that much of a reason for me to have them live there (besides being able to cultivate more bodies, however).

    Damn... I guess that those are all problems that will be a pain to avoid. It would make a pretty cool campaign, though, right? Playing either side in this society would be great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    For me (and only me, my DM is like yours ) undead can be evil, but not always. The undead themselves can be split two ways:

    1) Non intelligent undead: They have a neutral mindset, much like mindless creatures and most animals, but the fact that they are literally powered by the forces of decay, destruction and enervation pushes them slightly towards the evil.
    So they are only just barely evil because of negative energy. If that weren't the case, they would not be any more evil than constructs
    Oh yeah! You talking about Negative Energy reminded me of another thing related to this subject; I was asking my DM about why he thought it was Evil, and he said something about how they are "powered by Evil itself" and I said that it was just Negative Energy, and then he had said back to me that that was why; because of Negative Energy. Then we sort of started talking about how, realistically, Necromantic spells are normally used to create more life (well, unlife, really, but you get the idea). I said that my character probably doesn't give two bits of reanimated flesh about whether or not a specific type of energy harms living creatures. He's not even aiming the energy at everyone; just using it in order to not enslave humans. People die after being electrocuted, and yet we don't say that robots are Evil. In fact, Negative Energy will even "heal" the Undead, so that opens up even more philosophical points to bring up (the +/- Energies).

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by karkus View Post
    And finally, #3 might be the most difficult problem to sort out. There could be people that simply live there, in a Utopian society, as mentioned above, who don't have to work, but then there wouldn't be that much of a reason for me to have them live there (besides being able to cultivate more bodies, however).
    Or you could just use the real world as an analogue: The Luddites argued that machinery which could increase worker productivity (here, the undead) would cause mass unemployment and starvation. They believed in destroying technology so workers don't "get replaced."

    They were dead wrong, it turns out.

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    @ Karkus

    Pretty much agreeing here. In many respects, negative energy is simply a substitute for positive energy as an energy source, except that it is only compatible with undead, much like positive is only for the living.

    The essence of evil itself would be the lower planes. Maybe not even a specific plane, but possibly The Grey Waste?

    But.
    The difference is that the negative energy plane's sole purpose is to suck in and destroy things, it is an endless maw devouring everything. The fact that you can get negative energy away from it is a miracle itself, let alone making any semblance of life out if it. I don't know how that makes undead evil, but hey.
    Last edited by Kane0; 2012-10-03 at 12:51 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karkus View Post
    Oh yeah! You talking about Negative Energy reminded me of another thing related to this subject; I was asking my DM about why he thought it was Evil, and he said something about how they are "powered by Evil itself" and I said that it was just Negative Energy, and then he had said back to me that that was why; because of Negative Energy. Then we sort of started talking about how, realistically, Necromantic spells are normally used to create more life (well, unlife, really, but you get the idea). I said that my character probably doesn't give two bits of reanimated flesh about whether or not a specific type of energy harms living creatures. He's not even aiming the energy at everyone; just using it in order to not enslave humans. People die after being electrocuted, and yet we don't say that robots are Evil. In fact, Negative Energy will even "heal" the Undead, so that opens up even more philosophical points to bring up (the +/- Energies).
    This is why I like the 4e explaination better. For unintelligent undead they said that the soul is divided up into 2 parts, the soul (essentially the ego and superego and most of you personality) and the animius (The raw id and what keeps your body moving).

    When you die the soul splits for The Astral Sea/The Shadowfell while the animus stays and slowly decays. Raising undead is essentially getting the animus moving again to make the body move again in a grotesque parody of life.

    This isn't considered necessarily evil, which allows for neutral and even god necromancers, except that without the guiding influence of the soul, the animus-powered undead is a mean, hungry thing, purely driven by Id. So if you want an undead buddy, for the love of god keep it in check.

    I'd like the idea of a Paragon Path that can add Positive/Astral Sea Energy to PC-controlled undead to give them some semblance of morality as well as get rid of that pesky Radiant vulnerability, but that's just me.

    For Intelligent ones, they say that being isolated from humanity combined with being immortals sort of warps your perspective on other people ,though it's sort of implied that if you can keep yourself sane you'll be well off enough. Which is a whole 'nother can of worms that I'm gonna leave for a different thread to chat about.

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    I think one reason that this is the case. Is people place a premium on dead bodies. You should honor your dead, and let the "sleep" in peace. Lots of societies are this way. So, to get the fodder for your profession, most Necromancers and their ilk had to resort to grave robbing and outright murder to get the necessary things for their experimentation. Before your character came along, there where hundreds maybe thousands of other Necromancers experimenting and gathering data. Not all of them went about this in legal or socially acceptable ways.

    On top of that, you face the stigma of corpse desecration. Playing with powers best left to Gods and things like that.

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    It is very disrespectful to the dead, to make their funeral remains into tools. As for why it's evil energy--it's simply because no benevolent deity would have anything to do with such immoral use of magic. So, you need to go with the not-so-benevolent side of things.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Trollman
    The Morality of Necromancy: Black and Gray
    The rules of D&D attempt to be all things to all people, and unfortunately that just isn't possible if you're trying to make a system of objective morality. By trying to cater to two very different play styles as regards to the moral quandaries of the use of negative energy, the game ends up catering to neither and this has been the cause of a great many arguments for which there actually are no possible resolutions. Ultimately therefore, it falls to every DM to determine whether in their game the powers of Necromancy are inherently evil, or merely extremely dangerous. That's a choice which must be made, and has far reaching implications throughout the game. That's an awful lot of work, and most DMs honestly just don't care enough to be bothered with it, and I understand. Fortunately, we have collated those changes for you right here:
    Moral Option 1: The Crawling Darkness
    Many DMs will choose to have Negative Energy in general, and undead in particular, be inherently Evil. So much so that we can capitalize it: Evil. And say it again for emphasis: Evil. That means that when you cast a negative energy wave you are physically unleashing Evil onto the world. When you animate a corpse, you are creating a being whose singular purpose is to make moral choices which are objectionable on every level.
    That's a big commitment. It means that anyone using Inflict Wounds is an awful person, at least while they are doing it. The Plane of Negative Energy is in this model the source of all Evil, more so than the Abyss or Hell. It's Evil without an opinion, immorality in its purest most undiluted form.
    Moral Option 2: Playing with Fire
    Many DMs will choose to have Negative Energy be a base physical property of the magical universe that the D&D characters live in like extremes of Cold or Fire it is inimical to life, and it is ultimately no more mysterious than that. An animate skeleton is more disgusting and frightening to the average man than is a stone golem, but it's actually a less despicable act in the grand scheme of things because a golem requires the enslavement of an elemental spirit and a skeleton has no spirit at all.
    The Plane of Negative Energy in this model is precisely the same as all the other elemental planes: a dangerous environment that an unprotected human has no business going to.
    Read more here.

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    i used to be sympathetic to the argument that dead things are not more then inanimate object that used to be animate. then i became an EMT and started encountering dead bodies. i gotta tell ya, that a dead human body is repugnant beyond imagination. it is a lot different then a chicken cutlet in your freezer. the first one i had the misfortune to encounter was a guy who died in his sleep the night before. we could smell him in the living room. i will never forget the stink. it had a nauseating fruitiness to it that i knew was all wrong long before getting to the back of the house where the body was. i was gagging with dry heaves long before i saw the body or even knew he was dead. the guy worked with knew as soon as we walked in the front door and went into the room before me. after telling me i had a moment to prepare myself to go in do our job.

    nothing and i mean nothing can prepare you for a dead body until you actually encounter one. did i mention the smell.

    since he had died the night before all his blood pooled in his back. coagulating into a brownish, blueish, jelly under the skin at all the low points.

    i could go on or maybe post some pictures but i think you get my point. dealing with dead human bodies is a big deal. a very bid deal. any one who tries to pass it off as no different then dealing a porkchop or chicken cutlet either has never dealt with one or has, well i'm not going to go there.
    Last edited by cucchulainnn; 2012-10-06 at 10:13 AM.
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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Conners View Post
    It is very disrespectful to the dead, to make their funeral remains into tools. As for why it's evil energy--it's simply because no benevolent deity would have anything to do with such immoral use of magic. So, you need to go with the not-so-benevolent side of things.
    That's just taboo to us. Some cultures eat a dead person's body. That's what they see as appropriate. Burning or burying it would be a disgrace to them. I think it's a universal taboo to use someone's skull as a puppet (kind of what necromancy is), but that taboo doesn't need to exist. We can imagine a world without it.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    @karkus
    With regards to the morality question, in a game like D&D, I've never had a problem with creating an objective system of good and evil that declares what alignment some actions are, under the "it just is" heading. To me, these are the rules as stated, like "add your Str bonus to attack roles". If I think some of the rules could be improved I will talk to the DM outside the game, but otherwise I am willing to work within just about any given framework, because it is a GAME and does not need to match up perfectly with your real-life code of ethics.
    To me, arguing about the morality system is a lot like arguing in a game of Monopoly that you shouldn't need to pay the Luxury Tax because you're a libertarian.

    As far as explaining it, the route we usually took was "Necromancy is unnatural; the anithesis of life. While life isn't always good, necromancy is inherently destructive, and ultimately cannot be put to positive use".
    Since I like torturing metaphors, think of necromancy as a giant vat of acid: It might be of great use for scouring clean industrial parts, but if you plunge your hand into it your gonna get burned. (the hand represents your soul)


    Channeling negative energy and using spells from the Necromancy school was possible, but dangerous, you really only got called on it if you started generating unlife creations.
    Also, it's not like there are no other options (unless you are playing some very houseruled setting). The choice isn't "necromancy or be helpless", you are making the choice to pick necromancy instead of something less vile, like say conjuration for instance.


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    This is proving to be very interesting, thank you for the link.
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    @Anxe: I would direct you to the post above yours.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cucchulainnn View Post
    i used to be sympathetic to the argument that dead things are not more then inanimate object that used to be animate. then i became an EMT and started encountering dead bodies. i gotta tell ya, that a dead human body is repugnant beyond imagination. it is a lot different then a chicken cutlet in your freezer. the first one i had the misfortune to encounter was a guy who died in his sleep the night before. we could smell him in the living room. i will never forget the stink. it had a nauseating fruitiness to it that i knew was all wrong long before getting to the back of the house where the body was. i was gagging with dry heaves long before i saw the body or even knew he was dead. the guy worked with knew as soon as we walked in the front door and went into the room before me. after telling me i had a moment to prepare myself to go in do our job.

    nothing and i mean nothing can prepare you for a dead body until you actually encounter one. did i mention the smell.

    since he had died the night before all his blood pooled in his back. coagulating into a brownish, blueish, jelly under the skin at all the low points.

    i could go on or maybe post some pictures but i think you get my point. dealing with dead human bodies is a big deal. a very bid deal. any one who tries to pass it off as no different then dealing a porkchop or chicken cutlet either has never dealt with one or has, well i'm not going to go there.
    Wow. I never really thought of it that way... Well, technically, I did. But only the first part of the story, however. Those were almost my exact thoughts, thinking that it was simply the shell of something else that my character could put to use, but I'll trust you that it isn't the same.

    Damn... this really complicates things morally for me, and now I'm not so sure if I can even play the character without thinking about this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karkus View Post
    Wow. I never really thought of it that way...
    I think a lot of people don't.

    Personally, I blame Hollywood. We see movies and TV shows all the time where some one gets a life-threatening injury, wraps on a few bandages, and then goes running around like nothing's wrong, or where death is nice and quick and neat, and piles of corpses really just look like people sleeping (or maybe drunk people passed out).

    Thankfully I've never encountered a dead body except at a funeral (I don't think roadkill counts). This kind of thing is part of why I made the comment earlier about seperating Good/Evil/roleplay in the game from your personal opinions and experiences in real life.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2012-10-06 at 11:34 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cucchulainnn View Post
    i used to be sympathetic to the argument that dead things are not more then inanimate object that used to be animate. then i became an EMT and started encountering dead bodies. i gotta tell ya, that a dead human body is repugnant beyond imagination. it is a lot different then a chicken cutlet in your freezer. the first one i had the misfortune to encounter was a guy who died in his sleep the night before. we could smell him in the living room. i will never forget the stink. it had a nauseating fruitiness to it that i knew was all wrong long before getting to the back of the house where the body was. i was gagging with dry heaves long before i saw the body or even knew he was dead. the guy worked with knew as soon as we walked in the front door and went into the room before me. after telling me i had a moment to prepare myself to go in do our job.

    nothing and i mean nothing can prepare you for a dead body until you actually encounter one. did i mention the smell.

    since he had died the night before all his blood pooled in his back. coagulating into a brownish, blueish, jelly under the skin at all the low points.

    i could go on or maybe post some pictures but i think you get my point. dealing with dead human bodies is a big deal. a very bid deal. any one who tries to pass it off as no different then dealing a porkchop or chicken cutlet either has never dealt with one or has, well i'm not going to go there.
    I apologize if I'm misinterpreting this, but are you using your experience as an EMT who had to work with dead bodies to state that people who work with dead bodies are evil?
    Yes, I realize the things are disgusting and that you have far more experience with them than I do, but I don't see how this renders a necromancer who raises the dead to work as, let's say, firefighters, so that living people don't have to run into burning buildings, is doing something wrong.
    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by karkus View Post
    Damn... this really complicates things morally for me, and now I'm not so sure if I can even play the character without thinking about this.
    You do realize it is possible to play a necromancer minus the undead, right? Okay, granted it won't be the same type of character (It'll be closer to a blaster/debuffer than a summoner) but it can be done without to much trouble. Heck, my old necromancers reason for not using them very often (and then only the summon undead ones) was "Any two bit, half-assed wannabe can animate a horde of undead." He simply considered himself to good to rely on them.

    Of course, if your DM considered ALL negative energy inherently Evil you do have a problem, but if it's only the undead that he dislikes you have some room to maneuver, and if he still argues, remind him that the necromancy school has far more ways to deal with an enemy without killing him or doing permanent damage that the more popular evocation and conjuration schools. (Just be careful when level draining...)

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    Though in all fairness, even for people who work with the dead, our perception of corpses in western society is very different from that of most people throughout history. Even the professionals may be well in their 20s when encountering the first corpses. Before hospitals and nursing homes, the sick and old were cared for at home and died there, where their grandchildren and great grandchidren where also living. And you had chickens, rabbits, and maybe pigs in your garden, and those would also be slaughtered right outside the kitchen.
    We have meat and loss of loved ones, but we usually do not encounter death in person. Those who do are rare and even though start with it only later in their lives.

    I think the reason why undead are evil are actually because they violate the natural order of things. They are a thing that should not be. The creation of undead is a violation of the laws set out by the divine authorities and those who do it defy the gods and defile their creation. As fuzzy as the word Evil is, this is usually considered a very clear case of it.
    Also corpses are a source of disease and decay, something we instinctively shy away from. And everything that is scary is atomatically made by the mind into something that is evil.
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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    It depends. Are you talking main line D&D, or pathfinder ?
    In 3.5 and 4E, undead don't have to be evil at all, so that's a false assumption to make.
    In Pathfinder, all undead are evil, bar a single exception in the form of Ghosts, but they're naturally occuring returning spirits, not something necromancers can make. There used to be Juju spirits, but the moment the Pathfinder devs noticed that allowed necromancers to make non-evil undead, they put their foot down hard.


    So, in Pathfinder at least :
    Mindless undead are vicious, murderous spirits shoved into inert bodies. If freed from a necromancer's control, they'll immediately start slaughtering everything in sight. A necromancer can easily make mindless undead and remain neutral himself, so long as he keeps a tight leash on his mindless undead. Maybe even good if the owner of the desecrated bodies gave their permission.

    But sentient undead... Oh boy. Creating a sentient undead automatically turns the original creature to evil. You're forcefully taking a dead soul, desecrating and corrupting it forever with negative energy shenanigans, then shoving it back into its body. Because of the existence of an afterlife, this is a fate infinitely worse than death and any pathfinder necromancer who creates a sentient undead becomes Evil with a capital E.
    Last edited by Ranos; 2012-10-06 at 12:27 PM.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    One thing to keep in mind is that even True Resurrection isn't capable of bringing someone who has been turned into an undead if the undead isn't destroyed. That implies that undead animation somehow messes with the person's soul, so it's not only the person's "shell".

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Saidoro View Post
    I apologize if I'm misinterpreting this, but are you using your experience as an EMT who had to work with dead bodies to state that people who work with dead bodies are evil?
    Yes, I realize the things are disgusting and that you have far more experience with them than I do, but I don't see how this renders a necromancer who raises the dead to work as, let's say, firefighters, so that living people don't have to run into burning buildings, is doing something wrong.
    No, he's just stating that it's not exactly what we were thinking of, and that the perception of whether or not it's morally right (not Good/Evil) can change because of that.

    It's just that it's not an "empty shell," but rather the remains of an actual person.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Mage View Post
    One thing to keep in mind is that even True Resurrection isn't capable of bringing someone who has been turned into an undead if the undead isn't destroyed. That implies that undead animation somehow messes with the person's soul, so it's not only the person's "shell".
    Or just that the spell uses the original body if the original body exists, and the body is currently in use.
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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Qwertystop View Post
    Or just that the spell uses the original body if the original body exists, and the body is currently in use.
    True Resurrection creates a new body for the creature. If it can bring someone that doesn't even have a body, then why should the original one being in use matter (if it doesn't interfere with the soul, that is)?

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Mage View Post
    True Resurrection creates a new body for the creature. If it can bring someone that doesn't even have a body, then why should the original one being in use matter (if it doesn't interfere with the soul, that is)?
    It creates a new body if the original is destroyed. If the original is not destroyed, maybe there's some kind of link. The soul was (probably) in one body for its entire life, after all.
    Quote Originally Posted by jamieth View Post
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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Qwertystop View Post
    It creates a new body if the original is destroyed. If the original is not destroyed, maybe there's some kind of link. The soul was (probably) in one body for its entire life, after all.
    I don't think it makes a new one only if it's destroyed, otherwise if the body is still around but not in the possession of the cleric it wouldn't work as well.

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    Default Re: Undead=Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Mage View Post
    I don't think it makes a new one only if it's destroyed, otherwise if the body is still around but not in the possession of the cleric it wouldn't work as well.
    Considering that the spell is Touch range anyway, the whole "working-without-a-body" function is pretty messed up as-is.
    Quote Originally Posted by jamieth View Post
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